Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Christmas Card Message.

Elsdon Pele
Before we bought our own property in Rothbury's Bridge Street, we lived in a rented ancient farmhouse in the picturesque village of Elsdon.  The carved stone over the front door bore the date of 1729, but even the casual observer could see that there were much, much older elements to the building. During the time we lived, worked and had a gallery there, we were privileged to met lots of people who had connections to this historic property.  Many were Tynesiders who had been evacuated to Elsdon during the Second World War who told comic tales of seeing sheep for the very first time and being terrified of these "wild animals", or of being sent to the farm to collect jugs of fresh milk. Others were relatives of agricultural workers who had once lived in various unlikely looking outbuildings. Some had ancestors who had been domestic workers in the farmhouse at various periods... and they all had their own stories to tell.  But a handful of these visitors to the gallery were family members of the Keith family, who had been the last family to own the property and to use it as a working farmhouse. 

As a result we have become occasional correspondents with Robert Keith and his wife Margaret, who now live in Carlisle. Robert has always been a keen artist, producing pencil drawings of  Elsdon's farm buildings right through his childhood and becoming a professional artist in later life. He also has a keen interest in local history, which are all reasons why we continue keep in touch.

I'm going to take the liberty of  reproducing the note he included in this year's Christmas card.

" Had a look at your excellent website Lynda. Some of your paintings brought back memories. In 1950 one evening I sat on a seat in Lovers Walk (The riverside walk along to The Thrum from Rothbury village) - I didn't know it was called that- and watched a steam engine in the station across the river (Coquet).

The Thrum Rocks
Not that many years ago Margaret and I were at Thrum Rocks and watched two girls jump across the river. The firts one made it, but the second one landed in the water. However she clung to the rock and hauled herself up.

To me The Cheviot hill was once a blip on a radar screen. In the early '50s as a radar mechanic in the RAF I was posted to Acklington. In the morning I would push this enormous revolving aerial round till two marks on the turntable aligned, assuring it was facing Cheviot. Then I would go down the ladder into the well below. It housed the transmitter, which I would tune for maximum signal on the receiver."

Cheviot from the Border Ridge

Sunday, 16 December 2012

If there was ever a TV programme called "Simply Avoid Dancing" there's a possibility that my husband and I might be invited to take part... Nifty little movers we are not!! But with the help of some fancy digital jiggerypokery, even we can cut a caper!

We might be serious about our Art, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously! 

The Best Compliment Possible.

Yesterday I had a phone call from one of my oldest customers. He and his wife first visited the gallery when we had only just started up in Elsdon in 2000, when they bought some of the very first paintings I created there. These were vibrant still lifes on canvas of ceramics and flowers and very  different to the landscapes for which I'm now known. Because they were newly retired and love Northumberland so much, they often used to holiday in the area and always made a point of visiting me to see what new work I had on show. Occasionally they bought a new piece, but more often we simply shared a coffee and a chat.  But this year when I was writing their customary Christmas card, I realised that  haven't seen them now for at least a year so I mentioned this in the card.  My lovely customer phoned to tell me that he's bedridden now and can't visit Northumberland any more, but that my paintings continue to give him so much joy.

I feel incredibly privileged to receive such a beautiful message. I don't think I could ever have a better, more genuine or more touching compliment. It's very humbling..

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Back by Popular Request- Dr Johnson's Favourite-Mulled Wine

It's that time of year when customers begin to ask for the recipe of the complimentary mulled wine that I serve to my customers every weekend during December. So by popular request,  here's a reprise of the blog entry I made LAST year. Enjoy!

Once Upon a Time many years ago, we discovered this old recipe for mulled wine called "Dr Johnson's Favourite". (The Dr Johnson in question being Samuel Johnson, the English author, poet and critic whose most memorable contribution to British culture was probably his Dictionary of The English Language published in 1755.)

I thought it had been in an ancient recipe book, given to me by an aged aunt on the occasion of my 14th birthday.... but hunting through my now dilapidated copy I found that this wasn't the case. My husband @pottedhistory AKA Graham Taylor, thought it came out of a long discarded South African magazine. We simply don't know.... But what we DO know is that we've been enjoying this warming, spicy concoction every Christmas for decades and that every time we serve it, people ask for the recipe, which we are always happy to share. By popular demand it was even printed in The Northumberland Gazette one year.

I don't imagine that there's an historian anywhere who could confirm that this truly was Dr Johnson's Favourite, but I can say for absolute certain that it's OURS. Give it a try, it might just become a favourite of yours too!

Dr Johnson's Favourite-

1 Bottle red wine
2 Medium orange sliced
1 Sliced lemon
3 Tablespoons of sugar (or to taste)
4 Cloves
1 Mug boiling water
1 Good measure brandy or orange liqueur

Put wine, orange, lemon, sugar and cloves into a stainless or enamelled pan over a low heat. Bruise the fruit with a wooden spoon to burst the juice cells, cover and heat till steaming but DO NOT BOIL. Remove from the heat, add boiling water and brandy/liqueur, sieve into a jug, add more sugar if necessary and serve in heat proof glasses.

It is best taken in congenial company, beside a warm log fire.